Photograph by Steve Barnett

Friday, 14 December 2012


...thousand words?

In April 2011 we considered a spot on the local river, the Derbyshire Wye, which had fish rising all over it at 05:33 that morning. 

One comment came from someone who knew the river well enough to take this view: "I would be disappointed not to see rises in those two locations on News Year day, at dawn never mind a mild spring morn, as it was here in Herefordshire."

Yesterday morning he would have been disappointed. 

By Gum!   It was cold.  Too cold for even the Large Dark Olive or the Iron Blue Dun to show themselves.  Your faithful blogger, however, was not so disappointed, having a tripod in hand, instead of a rod, and in the bag was a camera and its customary impedimenta.

Here is a downstream view from beside that alder sapling reflected in the photograph from 2011.  Even with no fish showing, there is still only one word to describe the river - beautiful!

Regular Rod

Monday, 10 December 2012

One thousand more?

Tell me to stop if you don't like these occasional "Picture Posts".

Here is another view of the lovely Ogden Island that sits in the Derbyshire Wye half a mile downstream from the bustling market town of Bakewell.  It is beautiful even with the naked trees of early winter.  When the trees get their leaves back and the flies are hatching, this entire section will be covered in the rings of rising fish...


Friday, 7 December 2012

New Improved Recipe - Get Some Today!

The PPS (Poly Prop Sherry)

An effective fake of the Blue Winged Olive's Spinner the Sherry Spinner

·      Easy and quick to tie so saves your time
·      Low cost materials so saves your money
·      Nothing from endangered species so saves your conscience
·      Versatile, easy to match most spinners so saves your day

When this blog started we considered one of the most satisfying methods of fishing the dry fly -  fishing with a spinner imitation to represent the dead or dying adult female Blue Winged Olive. This is an upwinged fly that in her final stages of life, as she returns to the river to deposit her eggs, is known as the Sherry Spinner.  Looked at from above, the Sherry Spinner does indeed seem to have a body that is the colour of sweet sherry.  Looked at from below, with the light passing through her, she actually looks quite orange.

Inspection of many other spinners, such as those of the different flies anglers categorise together and name "Pale Watery", has shown that orange, rather than sherry or rusty colours is more evident when the light is behind the fly.  This is why the PPS has an orange body and can be used with great confidence when spinners of various types are on the water and the fishes' menu.

How to fish the PPS is simply as follows:
1.       Watch the rises and find a fish eating spinners.
2.       Work out how far up from the fish to cast your PPS to coincide with the rises of your chosen fish
3.       Make the cast and control the line so the PPS drifts as though attached to nothing
4.       When your PPS is taken, strike without breaking the tippet
5.       Get the fish away from the rest by using side strain
6.       Keep hidden if possible until the fish is in your landing net.
7.       Unhook the fish as carefully as you can to avoid damage to the fish
8.       Release the fish quickly, carefully ensuring it is recovered enough to swim away strongly
9.       Dry your fly and consider the next fish or move on to another spot...

History and Development of the PPS

For many years your faithful blogger's spinner pattern of choice was a traditional English dry fly called "Lunn's Particular" after its inventor William James Lunn, a justly famous Victorian river keeper on the Test in Hampshire, England.  This fly still works but is labour intensive to tie and to be made more effective needed its underside hackle fibres to be completely trimmed off to get it sitting flat in the water's surface. 

A personal decision in the 1970's to return all river fish to the water meant that, after a little while, the trout and grayling of my local rivers became a little more difficult to trick with this regularly seen artificial.  This was made more so when the fishery began to make the same move towards catch and release and all the fish caught were being returned and learning from the experience..

It was decided to try some of the other spinner designs that other innovative fly tiers had already created.  These were reasonably effective but the trout did not always take them in the same relaxed, innocent way that they ate the naturals.  Something extra was needed.

This led to a decision to go back to basics and come up with a pattern that would get that relaxed, innocent rise from trout convinced they were simply eating one more natural spinner.  Being an angler rather than a fly dresser it was important to devise a quickly and easily tied fly.  It had to use low cost, easily obtained materials.  It had to match whatever the trigger points were of the natural spinner to encourage that replica rise.  IT HAD TO WORK, nothing less would do.

Over three seasons, the first versions of the PPS were devised and used on the limestone spring-fed rivers of the Peak District in Derbyshire.  They were also used on holiday trips to other waters, such as the chalk streams in southern England and the spate and free-stone rivers in northern England and Scotland.  Materials and colours of materials were experimented with until the fly was proving infallible whenever deployed as described in the "How to fish the PPS" section above.  The fly stayed this way for a few more years.

A source of concern was that the body material of this successful version was of seal's fur dyed orange.  The development process started again and after numerous experiments with a number of natural and synthetic dubbing materials the best results came from Antron and similar fibres.  The examples at the top and below here are of UV Frog Hair, which has proven to be very easy to use and results in the PPS being as effective as before.
It was around this time that the PPS was shared with other anglers, particularly ones met in the evenings during spinner falls.  The feedback confirmed that the fly did exactly what it was supposed to do in the hands of folk other than myself.
It is believed that the PPS owes its efficacy to the following features:
The size and cruciform shape are what the fish are expecting to see when spinners are on the water
The orange colour, being achieved with dubbing, is still visible to the fish despite the hook inside it
The splayed tail and wings ensure the fly sits flat on the water's surface as per the natural spinner
The splayed tail and wings also act as tiny air brakes and get the PPS to land very gently

Materials for the New Improved Recipe:
Hooks:  18, 16 and 14 (the examples are on size 16 hooks)
Thread:  Orange
Tail:  Fibres from a large white cock hackle (NB cheap Indian capes are perfectly fine for the PPS)
Wing: Medium Dun Polypropylene yarn
Body, thorax and head: Orange Antron dubbing or similar.  The pictured flies used Orange "UV Frog's Hair"
1 - Start the thread at the top of the bend and make a small but distinct bump of tying thread.
2 - Cut off the waste thread.
3 - Take a bunch of the hackle fibres by stripping them from about half an inch of one side of the stalk and gauge them to be about the same length as the hook.  Tie them in at the bend and take the turns of thread back towards the bump of thread previously made.  Whilst doing this, splay out the fibres to make a fan shaped tail.  This tail is important, it suggests the splayed tail of the natural female imago (spinner), supports the fly on the meniscus and helps it to alight gently onto the water.  It also adds to the visibility of the fly which is also important as it is mostly deployed during the evenings when the natural spinners are on the water in great numbers.
4 - Trim the waste ends of the hackle fibres level with a point about 1/8th of an inch back from the eye.  Tie in the trimmed waste ends with close touching turns which anchor the tail and make a bed of thread creating a smooth base for the body and wings.
5 - Tie in the winging yarn on the top of the hook shank with two turns of the thread at the front of the body line.  Have a short length of the yarn pointing forward over the eye of the hook and the long length pointing towards the rear.
6 - Take the long length and while holding it towards you tie in the yarn using figure of eight turns to lock the strands of yarn out at right angles to the hook shank.  Leave the thread dangling in front of the wing.
7 - Dub on a very small amount of the orange dubbing yarn to make an elongated sausage shape as per the picture.
8 - Wind the dubbed thread once in front of the wing and then make a figure eight turn of the dubbed thread over the cross of the figure of eight wing locking turns.  Then wind the body down to the bend making a carrot shaped (and carrot coloured) body as you go.  Use the tying thread to make half a dozen tight, open ribbing turns back to the front of the fly.  Make a tiny head with a whip finish and cut off the thread.
9 - Take the yarn wings between the first finger and the thumb of the left hand (right hand if a Southpaw) and pull them back over the hook bend.  Use scissors to cut them off at a length level with the rearmost part of the hook bend, resulting in the finished PPS (Poly Prop Sherry). 
10 - Varnish the head and, whilst the varnish is still wet, use a hackle tip to pull through the eye to clear it of excess varnish.  Both the body, or the wings, can be trimmed at the bench, or the waterside, with scissors if a thinner profile or shorter wingspan is required, depending on the type of spinners your fish are feeding on at the time.
Don't forget to make these in fives: one for the fish, we can all make a mistake; one for the trees, we can all make another mistake; one for the tippet; one for the fly box; and one for the other angler who comes over and says "Excuse me please but I couldn't help noticing how well you are doing tonight.  Would you mind letting me know what fly are you using?"
Regular Rod

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Useful Hooks

Now you are quite likely to be tying flies in the long dark evenings, you might like to see a small selection of hooks that are fast becoming the most useful to your faithful blogger for the most frequently used dry flies...

None of them are sold as fly tying hooks.  In England we are blessed with a thriving community of so-called "coarse anglers".  In the UK "Coarse" is the name given to any fish without an adipose fin.  Serious coarse anglers are very demanding and would never tolerate hooks that were not efficient and strong. 

These hooks are both efficient, strong and yet fine enough in the wire to let dry flies dressed on them float well.  The straight eye is perfect for setting the hook efficiently to gain the best hold.  They are barbless, so fish can be released far more quickly and with less harm done than is possible with barbed hooks.  The first three hooks on the left are reversed and this too adds to their hooking powers.

Most importantly, they are all forged hooks with the wire at the bend slightly flattened, so they do not straighten out, even in the smallest sizes.

The Ashima hooks are imported into the UK by Profish and I suggest you contact the nice man at Profish to buy them in fly tying quantities.

Kamasan and Drennan hooks are both from the same company, Drennan.  You will find these in most coarse fishing tackle shops and on eBay.

The Preston hooks are also found in most good coarse fishing shops and on eBay.

Ashima are available in bulk as well as in tens.  The others come only in those infuriating little packets and do work out quite expensive when compared with hooks available in bulk, but they are so superior to most hooks sold for fly tying that the extra cost is worth it, especially if you fish where the quarry can sometimes be a bit bigger and stronger than usual...

The rule next to the hooks in the picture shows up what a wide variation there is in the manufacturers' interpretations of sizes.  The Ashima and Kamasan hooks in the picture are both described as "Size 16".  The Preston is said to be "Size 18".  This is why it is important to choose hooks by your own sight to match the size of the flies you hope to mimic when you dress your artificials.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ogden Island

Four years ago, Warren and Jan cleared the way to let anglers fish this island in the Derbyshire Wye by building a nice bridge out of a long piece of cord wood and doing heroic things with the tangle of fallen trees to let us get into positions to observe, cast and occasionally catch a fish or two.  There is a wonderful grayling run at the tail of the island and lots of hidy holes and runs upstream that abound in wild trout, both browns and rainbows.  There is room for one angler at a time (two if you are close friends) and the place to start is at the tail and spend a few hours quietly working your way up.  The casting gets progressively more demanding as you work upstream and that adds a little spice to the Sport.

 Here are Warren and Jan making the bridge.

Here's Warren catching the first fish from Ogden Island in 2008.

Henry likes the bridge, here he is waiting for me to cross over and join him

This is the lovely grayling run viewed from the "mainland" on the left bank of the Derbyshire Wye.

Here's the tail of Ogden Island.  The main channel of the river is on the right of the photograph.  The little side channel is on the left.

These monochromes of and around Ogden Island, were made with a toy camera that I've cobbled together with a nice lens to make a home-made, panoramic camera that can deliver quality photographs, the results of which, I hope, give something of a feeling of the place to the viewer, especially if you click on them to get a closer look. 

Are these successful? 

Only you can tell!

Regular Rod

Thursday, 15 November 2012


Here is a lovely place to drift a bushy fly down in the summer.  After you catch the resident whopper, under that tangle just below the cobble weir, simply wander up five yards, cross the bridge and you are on Ogden Island, a place of great beauty that brings joy to the beholder on every visit.  Henry loves it because here he often finds a pheasant or two to scare into the air.

Of course you'll catch nowt if you look at the place from this vantage point! 

Crawling into position downstream from here and keeping hidden is essential for any chance of success...

Regular Rod

Friday, 9 November 2012

A Gate to Heaven?

It really is a piece of Heaven through that gate.  One of the most lovely parts of my local river, packed with trout and grayling that thrive on the fly life, which thanks to the efforts of the river keepers, is so abundant hereabouts.

Now that our Environment Agency (EA) has once again neglected its duties to protect England and Wales from invasive species, it looks like the native species of creatures the trout rely on for food and we rely on for dry fly fishing in England and Wales are doomed to extinction.  I worry and wonder just how long that gate will remain a way through to Heavenly delights.  The killer shrimp is now being transported from water to water by boats, fish farmers and, yes, careless anglers too!  It seems to be only a matter of time before we lose all the larvae of the aquatic flies to this virulent predator.  This will affect others besides Dry Fly anglers.  There will be very few dippers, martins, swallows, swifts, flycatchers, wagtails....  There will be fewer bats.  Some, like the Daubenton's Bats, will actually disappear from the British Isles.  All of this is thanks to contaminated bilge being imported to our lakes, reservoirs, canals and rivers by the boating enthusiasts.  The real criminals in all this are the time servers in the EA who did nothing when it was first discovered at:

  • Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire
  • Cardiff Bay in South Wales
  • Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir in Port Talbot, South Wales
  • Barton Broad in the Norfolk Broads

  • What should the EA have done?  They should have closed these waters off the instant Killer Shrimp was discovered in them.  The reservoirs should have been drained down and the beds limed and dried off.  Cardiff Bay should have been quarantined so that bilges were decontaminated before craft were allowed to pass on anywhere else.  Instead there were no restrictions placed on access for boats at any of these locations and now - anywhere where boats go and fish farmers truck in their products - we can expect this invader to arrive and start eating our native species into extinction.

    Please do what you, personally, can do to slow the spread of the killer shrimps.  After fishing, wash your wellies, overtrousers, waders and nets in hot water and dry them out before you visit another water. You might not be able to stop fish farmers and boaters spreading this nightmare but you can ensure you never do.

    Thank you.

    Regular Rod

    Monday, 29 October 2012

    Another thousand words...

    Reconnaissance is a vital part of any angler's route to success and enjoyment.  Even more so for the dry fly angler.  Taking a camera along can add to the pleasure and even be another justification for being out there right now, even though the trout season is over round here until All Fool's Day 2013.

    Here, across the river is a lovely place very dear to my heart, Ogden Island, that four years ago Warren and Jan made accessible to the anglers.  Many happy hours have been enjoyed there since...

    Regular Rod

    Thursday, 25 October 2012

    You are well overtaken, Gentlemen,

    a Good Morning to you both...

    There was a bit of a Compleat (Complete) Angler moment this morning whilst out with Henry to practise some retrieving (and "sits" and "stays" not to mention an urgent "Heel!  You little brute! Heel").  We came across Bernie Maher and one of his lucky clients.  Bernie as well as being a fantastic fisherman (Champion and sometimes England Team member) is a great teacher, as your faithfull blogger knows first hand from his casting lessons.

    The quarry they sought were the grayling that are in fine fettle at this time of year in our local rivers.  The Town fish in Bakewell can only be approached when there are few folk around so Bernie and his client were taking full advantage that the place was almost deserted.

    After a few moments chatting we parted, each to our allotted tasks.


    The ball is thrown a long way and there is a pause for half a minute...


    Henry is away like a rocket and soon returns with the ball.


    It is returned.

    "Big fish!"

    The shout comes from upriver.  The temptation is too much and we both turn and sprint over to see.

    They weren't kidding.  A magnificent male grayling, in dark gunmetal, lay in the bottom of Bernie's ridiculous landing net. 

    The little camera was where it lives, in the pocket, so some quick snaps were taken and then the beautiful grayling was returned unharmed to the river.  This led to another photo opportunity and here you can see the results above and below for some short attempts at video capture...

    Please accept the apologies due for the poor videos but framing was all guess work, done on the knees, at arms length. 

    Just look at those colours and markings in the pelvic fin!

    Regular Rod

    Thursday, 18 October 2012

    Paint a thousand words...

    ...some of you may recall that a vow was made to carry a bigger camera this season.  Little was it realised at the time how this was going to snowball into something very obsessive. 

    Hopefully it will not develop (no pun intended) into a compulsive disorder!

    Creativity seems to come upon your faithfull blogger in waves.  Throughout childhood, attempts at painting and sculpture were made but, with a distinct lack of talent in those two disciplines, making photographs became a passion.  Other attractions pushed photography away for the early part of adulthood and then it came back as the urge to make images returned in strength.  Through the late '70s and the '80s it was an obsession and it fitted in nicely with fishing.  For the last decade or so the digital snapshot camera was the only tool and it was only used as a recording device.

    Then the urge returned and more sizeable and capable digital cameras were added to the toolkit.  All this was fine and the images made have not been too lousy to use.  However, the influences of real photographer friends and their beautiful work, fanned a little spark within and a yearning flared up for a return to the slow, deliberate, contemplative approach of using film, rather than megapixels to create photographic images.

    So the cameras got bigger and bigger.  Even to the point of making one out of a kid's toy just to be able to make panoramic photographs, like the one above, in one go rather than stitching them together in Photoshop.

    Here is another such a one. 

    Yes it interferes with the fishing, add in Henry and distraction is inevitable.  It's a miracle any fish get caught these days...

    Regular Rod

    Friday, 5 October 2012

    Peacock Fly Fishing Club - Bradford Bonus

    It was the annual get together of the Peacock Fly Fishing Club last night and we were in for a special treat...

    Warren, the head river keeper for the Haddon Estate, announced the addition of a new river to the waters that we Club members will be allowed to fish from next season onwards, at no extra cost.  The fees stay the same as this year!  The river is the delightful River Bradford, an important tributary to the Lathkill/Dakin, which in turn flows into the Derbyshire Wye.

    The rules are simplicity itself.  Dry fly only and no wading.  The major caveat we have to pay attention to is not to contaminate the river with water from elsewhere.  That is, if we fish the Wye, we must not take a damp net up to the Bradford with Wye water on it.  This is a protection measure to ensure we do not contaminate the Bradford with the crayfish virus.  The Bradford is the last place in the Peak District to still have a population of the native White Clawed Crayfish.  All the other rivers have lost their native crayfish to the virus carried here by imported Red Clawed Signal Crayfish.

    A stitched panorama of the "Coach Road" section of the meandering Bradford
    There are 1.7 miles of double bank fishing on a delightful little spring-fed river to look forward to next season and all the members have to do before fishing it is to make sure their nets are dry and that they text Jan to let him know they are going there.  The Bradford has a remarkable head of insect life, including the Drake.  ALL members will be allowed to fish the Bradford during the WHOLE of the season, including the time of the Drake!

    Much will have more, eh?

    Regular Rod

    Friday, 21 September 2012

    Epicurean Delights!

    Not so delightful if you were ever as slow as I was this evening in working out what on Earth the fish had suddenly turned their attention to.  All the fish mind, all of them!  There were no stragglers carrying on with the Blue Winged Olives they'd been swallowing all afternoon and delivering some great Sport for your happy blogger.  The fly would drift over a nice trout perfectly and up it would come only to eat something two inches away from my fly.
    At one point I had a fish rise to one of the knots in my leader!  Whatever the real thing was it was small, not too small though as the rise was to the first knot that joins the 0.4mm diameter monofilament to the first part of the mid-section that I make out of 0.3mm diameter monofilament!!!  Maybe we worry to much about whether fish are put off by strong tippets?  I put on my favourite small fly for fish eating smuts or aphids.  Sturdy's Fancy on a size 20 hook.  Nothing took it but the rises were still being enthusiastically made.  Henry was getting impatient for some excitement.

    Then it came to me like a blow!  The weather was not very nice.  Cold winds and intermittent squally showers between periods of delightful but weak sunshine. 

    Concentrate!  Ah yes, I bet some of these little flies are Iron Blue Duns and I bet the fish are eating those and eschewing all others.  On with the fake.  Cast again.  Slurp!  Aha, the rod is heaved over, Henry is up on his toes and wagging his tail, all is well with the world and God is in his Heaven!

    Sport was very brisk indeed where only half an hour before it had not been possible to buy a rise.  In no time at all there were three more McNabs, to add to the one managed earlier before the Derbyshire Wye's epicures had changed their diet for a few hours,   

    Strolling back up river towards home we managed to catch one more grayling and then my reel, which I had been struggling with for the last three hours, fell apart, signalling time to go in for supper...

    Regular Rod

    Wednesday, 19 September 2012

    A Nice Challenge

    Here, between the trailing dead twigs and the overhanging sawn off branch, is "the Spot" where the fly has to fit inside, land gently, with enough slack to avoid drag, then to drift to the left under the branches along that bubble line...

    Ah, but here is the angle seen by the angler when sat down to avoid scaring the fish!

    However, even that is not the end of the matter because as well as sitting down, the cast must be made from here on this side of the river... 

    Of course you could do it, what's the problem?


    Well, to tell you the Truth...

    it's this "space" for the back cast, which ups the ante so much that to fold would be the sensible option.  Sensible?  Whoever heard of a "sensible" dry fly angler?

    Regular Rod

    Wednesday, 5 September 2012

    Short Evenings...

    Forgot the camera again!  I must stop rushing about...  Sorry again about the quality of the 'phone photos! There were spinners drifting down river as I came out of the garden door and fish were eating them steadily. 

    Henry was pretty good but got incredibly excited when a brown trout dragged me all over the shallow pool we were fishing. Six or eight inches of water makes for trout acting like Bonefish and side strain is not only your friend but against such boisterous fish is also your only chance of success.

    He was rather puzzled when the trout was safely released after such obvious hard work by his pal to get it in the net.  He spent a good few minutes searching the water to see if he could help me by finding it again!

    A splendid evening in despite of it being only a couple of hours long.

    We will soon be reaching that time when the Sport is centred on the hour or so before and the three or four hours after noon, so make the most of these short evenings while you can.  I reckon a fortnight at most is all we have.  Fishing will need a scive from the middle of the month until the end of the season to be sure of Sport.

    Regular Rod

    Sunday, 2 September 2012


    The Chatsworth Country Fair has devised a way to keep the Riff Raff out.  They put the price beyond the reach of ordinary folk.  Imagine paying £20 to be allowed to go shopping!

    The big attraction is to see the RAF's Red Arrows (still only 7 of them since the sad accident last year) doing their magnificent display of precision and skill.  So your faithful blogger, definitely part of the Riff Raff who thinks £20 is far, far too much for entry, decided to fish yesterday in the next valley, instead of visiting the show, and so enjoyed the top of the bill attraction for free from the banks of the Derbyshire Wye!!!

    There was only one hurried snap in the dusk of a splendid female grayling that fought like a trout before she was netted and released. 


    The rest of the pictures were of the marvellous Red Arrows that, hopefully, you may enjoy...

    Regular Rod